The Waterville Way (A Flash Fiction Story Challenge)

Waterville in November
Waterville in November | Source

The Challenge by Cam8510 (aka. Chris Mills)

Chris recently wrote a great hub called "Five Steps to Writing a Solid Flash Fiction Story ***Plus a Writing Challenge***"

Chris set the challenge as follows:

"Write a 1,000 (or fewer) word story using the following prompts:

Genre: Drama

Location: Coffee Shop

Object: A Walking Cane"

There have been some wonderful stories written so far to meet the challenge. The Waterville Way is my flash (semi-)fiction response. (as this is based on a true story.)

The Waterville Way

The renowned restaurant announced itself as we approached. Large letters proclaimed "CHARLIE'S" above the wide doorway. It was only 10am and we had just checked in so I led my wife Charlotte into the adjoining lounge where another sign read "Ireland's Finest Teas and Coffees."

The "Butler's Arms Hotel" in Waterville, County Kerry had been recommended to me and I had always been anxious to check it out and also the story of its most famous client. We had finally saved enough to make the trip, all the way from Australia.

I ordered a cappuccino for Charlotte and an Irish Coffee (of course) for myself, and while waiting, engaged the friendly male barista in a discourse.

The Butler Arms Hotel, Waterville
The Butler Arms Hotel, Waterville | Source

I pointed to a spindly walking cane on a wall above the chalk board menu. "Is that really the original..I mean, His actual cane?"

"Yes, it most certainly is," he replied in an authentic Irish accent, "The real thing." He continued without needing further encouragement. "In fact we are lucky he ever made Waterville his regular holiday destination at all. The first time he and his family visited the village they were literally turned away at the Inn..this very Inn in fact."

I indicated my interest in the story and he went on as though he'd repeated it a million times but never tired of recounting it for tourists. An occasional nod or exclamation of "Oh really?" was all the incentive he needed to continue unabated.

The Original Cane
The Original Cane | Source

"Sometime during the 50s he and his family arrived unannounced at the reception of the Butler Arms Hotel on the recommendation of a close friend, Walt Disney. However it was the height of the tourist season, the hotel was full, and he found his status meant little as he was not recognised by the receptionist.

So without complaint one of the world's most famous men quietly turned on his heels and drove his family off to find lodgings in nearby Kenmare.

When one of the hotel guests who had recognised the man reported the incident to the proprietor, he immediately drove at high speed after the family, catching up with them a few miles beyond the town, and urged them to return. He then turfed his very own family out of their private quarters to accommodate the unexpected guests and plied them with tea and scones in this same room now christened after the famous man,

As a result of his quick thinking, the hotelier ensured one of the most famous faces in the world kept returning to Waterville for the next two decades."

The Chaplin Family, 1961
The Chaplin Family, 1961 | Source

"The fact that Charlie Chaplin was not initially recognised had as much to do with the difference between his silver screen persona from 20 or 30 years before compared to this elderly, white-haired, shy family man, with no sign at all of a bowler hat or cane anywhere about him, who presented at reception."

The barista's tale left little doubt why the Hollywood star made Waterville his summer home for many years: “He was left alone, made very welcome, and nobody bothered him or his family. His presence was never broadcast, and in an era without T.V.s, and few radios, never mind intrusive media, Chaplin found a private haven to be the ordinary man his fame did not allow anywhere else. The family was accepted as part of the community, really. The people of Waterville took them to their hearts. It's the Waterville Way".

The Tramp
The Tramp | Source

He placed the coffees in front of me and I paid him, then he reached up and carefully lifted down the thin cane and passed it to me. "Feel the weight," he said

"Hard to believe it could actually support a man's weight isn't it?" I replied holding it horizontally in two hands, frightened that it might snap.

"Yes, it was just part of the persona for the character of "the tramp" in the movie by the same name which literally made Chaplin a star. Along with the bowler hat and "Hitler" moustache it became one of his trademarks in many of his other movies. It wasn't actually meant to support him," he smiled. "If you actually watch his films you'll see it was just a prop to emphasize his character's bumbling clumsiness."

"It must be worth a fortune," I said carefully handing it back over the counter.

"Oh, we have had offers of up to 20,000 pounds, but it's worth much more than that to us here at the Butler's Arms," he winked, "beside's, it's a great conversation starter in The Chaplin Lounge, don't you agree"


The Sign in the Chaplin Lounge
The Sign in the Chaplin Lounge | Source

© 2015 John Hansen

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Comments 74 comments

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 13 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

John, what a surprising and delightful story. I had no idea Chaplin was even still alive in the 70s. That hotelier had no idea what this would mean to his hotel and the town. Thank you for this historical/dramatic piece. Excellent addition to our growing collection of flash fiction stories in the challenge.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Chris. As soon as you said that a cane had to be part of the story I immediately thought of Charlie Chaplin and then had to research him to find a way of making it sound authentic and setting it in a coffee shop. I didn't realise he was still alive in the 70s and didn't pass away until 1977.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 13 months ago

John, I love this, it is refreshing and interesting. I must try this one as soon as time permits.

Have a nice weekend

Blessings and hugs


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Shyron. Gad you found this tale refreshing and look forward to reading your contribution to the challenge.


word55 profile image

word55 13 months ago from Chicago

Um John, that's what I like about fiction. You can run away with a story and bring it back for more runs -:). I loved it!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Al, yes it gives a lot of leeway to work with. Glad you liked this.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 13 months ago from Shelton

You always put that special Jodah touch when you take on challenges.. bravo my friend Cam should be proud :)


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 13 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

Lovely story mate, thoroughly enjoyed it.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Frank, I love these challenges and always try to put my unique spin on them. Glad you approve of this effort.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Colin, your kind comment is much appreciated. Glad you enjoyed the read.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 13 months ago from Florida

So awesome! I loved it! I really admired Charlie Chaplin through the years. He had so much expression without words, but when he did speak, his words were just as expressive; like the greatest speech ever in the movie he made, "The Great Dictator." I think I've posted that speech like 1000 times on social media. lol....

Also, I gave a respected homage to my appreciation to Charlie when my daughter had old Hollywood day at school one year, I dressed her up as Charlie, she won! :)

Your story is a great fiction tale that I hope was real for Charlie; to come to Waterville and get peace and enjoyment out of life without the hoopla of Hollywood.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 13 months ago from southern USA

Wonderful contribution to the interesting challenge, John, as always. I have always loved watching Charlie and his expressions. I love how you have taken a true account of your trip and made it part fiction. I know it was a blessing for his family to get away in peace. Looks like he was blessed with a large family. I've always wondered about that cane and now realize it was a prop.

I am amused that there is a Waterville because as a child, my siblings and I would play with the water hose out in the terribly hot summer days on our driveway, and I came up with a game I called "Welcome to Waterville" where we ate, drank and slept water LOL ...

I was going to vote up and across, but ... I will share!

Blessings


Dana Tate profile image

Dana Tate 13 months ago from LOS ANGELES

I loved it Jodah! You always rise up to the occasion.


Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 13 months ago from Hollister, MO

Very enjoyable read, John. Thanks for sharing. Loved the images, as well! ;-)


drbj profile image

drbj 13 months ago from south Florida

This is imaginative and realistic at the same time, Jodah. That is quite a feat. Charlie himself would enjoy your story. I know because I once interviewed him (supernaturally): 'Interview with Charlie Chaplin.'


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 13 months ago from Southern Georgia

Even though I guessed who "Charlie" was, I enjoyed the tale you wove around him. I think his wife was named Oola or Oona, or something similar to that. I really thought he visited "Waterville" until I read the comments because you did such a good job on this tale. Good answer to Chris's challenge! :)


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 13 months ago from Oklahoma

Great response to Chris's challenge.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

So glad you enjoyed this Missy. Yes Charlie was a great actor and director, and humble man. Did you know he was also an accomplished music conductor? Yes the speech in "the Great Dictator" was hard to beat. What a brilliant film. What fun that you dressed your daughter as Charlie to win the Old Hollywood Day competition at school too. The part of the story about the Chaplin family and Waterville was real.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hello Faith, thank you for reading. Fancy you having a fantasy town called "Waterville" as a child. I almost called this story "Welcome to Waterville" in fact. The part about my wife and I visiting the town was fiction, the part about the Chaplin's visiting was fact. In fact there is a Charlie Chaplin comedy festival held there each year and even a statue of him in the town celebrating his contribution. Thanks for sharing.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for loving it Dana, and for your continued support.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading Bill, glad you found this tale and the photos interesting.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi drbj, thanks for reading ..I'll gladly accept "imaginative and realistic" :) now I have to go check out your interview with the great man.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Randy, yes his wife's name was Oona and off hand I think she was only about 19 and him 53 when they married. He really did visit Waterville regularly..that was the true part of the tale. There is an annual comedy festival and statue there commemorating his love of the village.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Larry, much appreciated. You should give the challenge a try.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 13 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

I know so little about Charlie Chaplin. That hotel looks impressive. But I'm confused, is your story true or fiction? It has the ring of truth.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 13 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I can see this becoming a classic. It is filled with charm. I sent the link over to Twitter.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 13 months ago from The Beautiful South

No one could beat this John! So great, I just loved it. Perfect read for a Saturday evening! +


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 13 months ago from southern USA

Wow ...how cool that you almost titled this piece "Welcome to Waterville" just like my fantasy world! Oh, really, about your visit being the fiction part ...it seemed so real; how creative of you. I was trying to figure out what parts were fiction. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit and that festival would be a hoot too. Blessings


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 13 months ago from High desert of Nevada.

Wonderful thing to write about, Jodah. Charlie Chaplin is a timeless icon and so well-loved. Your story is very endearing and interesting. Thanks for sharing it.


The Stages Of ME profile image

The Stages Of ME 13 months ago

Jodah ~

ou are a true story teller, and I love reading your works. This was a special one as you describe the simple and humble man Charlie Chaplin. It is so nice to see the family man behind the legend. Wonderful and enticing, makes me want to visit Waterville!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 13 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This story is very interesting, Jodah. It's a great response to the challenge!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Austinstar, the story is semi-fiction. It is based on the true story of the Chaplin family visiting Waterville for a fly fishing holiday as was recommended by Walt Disney. They were in fact turned away from the hotel but convinced to return, after which they made it a regular holiday destination.

The part about the narrator visiting there and the walking cane on the wall in the lounge etc is fiction.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Mike, I appreciate you sharing on Twitter. That's a big compliment.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for such a kind comment Jackie. I am happy that you loved this story. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

It seems I have a lot of people wondering which part of this story was fact, and which fiction Theresa. I guess that is a good thing. I agree that Waterville and the Charles Chaplin comedy festival would be a hoot. Cheers.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, Chaplin certainly i an icon Phyllis. Glad you enjoyed this little story and found it interesting.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Stages of Me, thank you for reading my story and for the kind words. Charlie Chaplin was a very talented man and true star but always managed to remained grounded and humble. I didn't know anything about Waterville before researching this, now I want to visit too.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading this Alicia. I appreciate you kind comment.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England

Delightful, John! I like the way you didn't confirm our suspicions as to the character discussed, until a little way through the story. It's always good to know we're right! The picture of the cane was a great lead-in.

I've always been fascinated by Charlie Chaplin even though I'm not a fan of 'slapstick' comedy. He was very clever and had split-second timing which is the hallmark of a great actor of course. I'd heard before that he was a 'down-to-earth kinda guy' too which makes him all the more likeable.

Great response to Chris' challenge. The atmosphere around the story-teller created empathy and drew me in.

Shared.

Ann


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading this and for your wonderful comment Ann. I enjoyed participating in this challenge, in fact I have trouble passing up any of them.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England

Me too - can't resist a challenge!


Malcolm Massiah 13 months ago

Great story. Interesting and intriguing.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Malcolm, good to see you. hope all is well.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 13 months ago from Olympia, WA

You are a ridiculous talent, John, and I mean that in the nicest way. You take on every challenge and your efforts are always some of the best. Another yeoman's job...no, another well-done job by a master craftsman.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 13 months ago from The Caribbean

I agree with Billybuc. I'm sure that I mentioned previously how well you excel in so many different genres. Another great hit!


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 13 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Wonderful story. It looks just real. You have crafted it so well using the coffee house and cane prompts. Thanks for sharing.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 13 months ago from Central Florida

You've provided a wonderful entry to Chris' challenge and an interesting lesson in history at the same time. I enjoyed this immensely, John!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 13 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

What a great story, John! ( Chaplin would be impressed.) By combining fiction with non-fiction you have written a masterful, intriguing short...so well done! "The tramp" has always held a little place my heart...I often wondered if the troubled hardships of his childhood formed the basis of this character, and his innate ability to make us laugh and feel. Kudos.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Bill, I am humbled by that generous comment, really. I guess you have to have a competitive streak to make it as a writer, and I admit I do have that. I find the challenges bring out the best of me. I can handle "ridiculous" as a label in that context :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi MsDora, yes you have, and thank you.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Glad you enjoyed this story Venkat and thanks for the positive comment about how it was crafted.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Shauna, It was a lesson for me as well as I had to research Chaplin to come up with a story I could set in a coffee shop.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Genna. Yes "the tramp" was an engaging character. I have so much respect for the silent movie stars like Chaplin and Keaton for making exciting movies without the benefit of sound. His childhood I am sure influenced the person he became. His elder brother Sydney was a great support early on and his parents were both entertainers. One interesting fact is that Charlie had a younger brother who had been adopted out and who chose vaudeville as a career without having been told that he was related to the famous "Charlie Chaplin". Glad you enjoyed this story.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 13 months ago from New Delhi, India

A very well written hub and what a wonderful response to the challenge! You have immense talent of responding to these challenges and prompts.

The reference to Charlie Chaplin is so refreshing. He is one of my favourites.

Thank you for this very interesting hub!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading this Chitrangada. When I read the criteria of the challenge and it mentioned a walking cane I thought of Charlie Chaplin and then had to work out a way of including him in a story set in a coffee shop. I appreciate your kind words.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 13 months ago from Stillwater, OK

This left me smiling and feeling so pleased that this secret had been kept for so long. I enjoyed the dialogue and felt like I was the one that was listening to the story as I sipped my coffee at the Arms.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Deb, I am so glad the story came across that way. Yes, I doubt it would happen today..a whole town keeping the secret of a celebrity visiting regularly. Good for Waterville.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 13 months ago from Southern Illinois

John this was such a delightful read. I was surprised to find it was about Charlie Chaplin, but of course the cane made the story. I loved it!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Ruby, I was wary of posting the name of the Restaurant and giving the identity of the famous person away to soon. Glad it surprised you and that you found this a delightful read. I wanted a happy, feel good story so I guess I succeeded.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 13 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Thanks, I really enjoyed this read. I just kind of drifted away to a special time and place.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Eric, that was kind of the feeling I was hoping this story would evoke. Glad you enjoyed the read.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 13 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

John

Great story. And a true one at that. Loved it.

Lawrence


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Lawrence, mush appreciated. Glad you enjoyed it


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 12 months ago from New York

Beautifully done Jonah! I could see Chaplin in that lovely castle. Your "fiction" is so real and a joy to read. The cane, of course, was a magical touch in this story.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Mary, glad you enjoyed this little tale. Congratulations on "best avatar" again. Well done.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 12 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

What a great story. Its so original that I'm not surprised that it was based on a true story. I see from the photo that Chaplin had a large family. I never knew that.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Nadine, I am happy you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I loved yours as well.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Nadine, I am happy you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I loved yours as well.


promisem profile image

promisem 12 months ago

Nicely done, Jodah. When I found out that Chaplin was so connected to Waterville, I couldn't help but wondering why. It's a pretty village, but located in a remote part of Ireland. It would have taken quite a while to reach it back then. Do you know why and how he ended up there?


Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi promisem, Waterville was recommended to Chaplin by his friend Walt Disney as a wonderful place to visit and base for a fly-fishing holiday. A in the story he was at first turned away a it was peak fishing season and the hotel was booked out, but the Inn's owner did go after him and beg him to return. It probably appealed because it was a little out of the way and he and his family could relax there without being disturbed and recognised.


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 12 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi John - What a great story about another country and a truly famous coffee shop in history and famous person. You took some of the truth and added fiction which makes good flash fiction and adds " writing what we know." Your writing improves every time a hub happens. Thanks for sharing. Pinning. Blessings, Audrey


Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Audrey, one of the greatest compliments you could give us to say my writing "improves every time a hub appears." We are constantly learning and hopefully getting better with practice. I never want my writing to start to stagnate, become all the same and get boring. Glad you enjoyed this semi-fiction tale.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 12 months ago from USA

I had no idea he was still alive in the 70s. Your writing entertains and teaches, too.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Flourish, that was a fact I wasn't aware of either until I began researching for this hub. We are learning new things all the time. I appreciate your kind comment.

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